Letter: Building on Romantic rubble

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The Independent Online
Sir: Lord Weidenfeld's anodyne response ('The Romantic earthquake', 29 September) to Andrew Graham- Dixon's critique of German Romanticism just will not do. Auschwitz is not a side issue for Romanticism. As proof I suggest he re-reads Fichte, who Isaiah Berlin identifies as 'the true father of romanticism'.

On reading the Addresses to the German Nation - with its ideals of the purity of the 'volk', the division of mankind into superior and inferior races, the realisation of a historic destiny, the ego-imperialism of will, 'I believe because I will', etc - it is impossible not to recognise a fundamental caesura of historical understanding which, while exhilarating, is fundamentally pernicious. The 'Gothic Image' of darkly brooding emotion and unrestrained monstrous will, was from the outset an irrational quest based on a flawed understanding of human nature: a nightmare which Hitler turned to reality.

The challenge today is not to excuse this, nor 'to build our cities on the slopes of Vesuvius' (Nietzsche), but to build communities of compassion and reasoned restraint out of the rubble of Romanticism.

Yours sincerely,


Canons Regular of Premontre


29 September

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